ActiveVideo has been actively promoting the cloud as a logical route for cable operators to deliver interactive TV (iTV). Yesterday, Cablevision Systems announced it had launched a new interactive gaming service available free to all its iO TV customers. Cablevision is offering ActiveVideo’s TAG Games, an array of puzzle, arcade and children’s games. TAG Games allows customers to play on their own or even against other iO TV customers in a unique house-to-house mode.
Available on channel 610, the game lineup features brands such as Bejeweled 2, Sudoku and Bob the Builder. Customers can use their remote control to play these selections. Seventeen games are available now, and one new game will be added each month. ??The games service will ultimately feature advertising.
Cablevision’s deployment of TAG games is an example of ActiveVideo’s technology that leverages the cloud, according to a spokesman for ActiveVideo. Cable operators that wish to participate in the world of Web applications are focusing less on disparate platforms and more on the cloud.
"There are not that many companies out there building apps for all the platforms, said Tarun Kripalani, senior director, platform product management with ActiveVideo, at a session at Cable-Tec Expo last month entitled "Leveraging the Cloud for Interactive TV." Problems with focusing on the end device include: costs associated with each platform; normalizing the experience across devices; waiting for consumer adoption of devices; and security challenges.
A better approach is to develop iTV applications that run in the cloud. Benefits of the cloud include: mature standards; lots of app developers; a more intuitive user interface; and an environment accustomed to rapid and disruptive changes.
Kripalani said ActiveVideo is working on apps that run outside the cable network, in the cloud, that are sent to the set-top, which contains a very small client. The content is then delivered in an MPEG stream to the end device.
The other presenter at the Cable-Tec session, Jamie Batmanglidj, senior systems architect with the Comcast Media Center, added, "We do need to have a two-way path."
Batmanglidj co-authored a technical paper with Josh Seiden, senior director product development at the CMC, entitled "iTV in the Cloud – Bridging the Viewing and Interactive Experiences." Their paper outlines one method the cable industry can leverage the cloud.
The paper stated: "Bridging the IP-based cloud environments to the standardized RF-based cable-to-STB environments serves as a pathway for bridging the customer’s viewing and interactive experiences. This solution can be deployed across cable systems using a diverse mix of headend management systems and STBs, including widely deployed set-tops, because it utilizes the EBIF and Tru2way platforms."
The paper added: "Most cable plants and STBs deployed today can support the EBIF standard. There is no limitation, however, on leveraging Tru2way or other similar technology standards, as the basis for the platform, provided the proxy interface remains consistent."
"We still need some form of middleware on the set-top; the Tru2way layer still exists on the set-top; and a thin client to capture the remote commands," said Batmanglidg. "It’s just a little bit of a porting effort."
Cheering for the Cloud
At the NewTeeVee Live conference in San Francisco yesterday, ActiveVideo’s President and CEO Jeff Miller touted ActiveVideo’s CloudTV solution as a common platform that would lift restrictions on the number and types of applications available, as well as the ability to port content across multiple devices.
“We all agree that what’s going to drive our industry forward is the ability to view and engage with any content on any device,” said Miller. “Fragmentation of platforms and devices is keeping everybody from realizing the full potential of Web video and interactivity. What’s needed is for all of the players to ‘join the cloud” by coming together to embrace a true one-platform approach that will benefit the entire industry."?